November 17, 2015
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Published: November 16, 2015
By: Cammy Clark
To view the story online, visit: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/helping-others/article45005763.html.
Throughout the creative writing class at Dade Correctional Institution in Homestead, the men — several with life sentences —supported each other’s written words, shared personal information and even laughed together.
“This is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” said the teacher, journalist Kathie Klarreich.
She first taught in prisons in 2009, and last year founded the Miami-based nonprofit, Exchange for Change. The organization began by teaching one class inside a men’s prison. It has grown to 11 free classes that serve more than 200 people at three state prisons, two re-entry centers and a PACE Center for Girls.
“Our volunteer programs are our salvation,” said Lori Norwood, assistant warden of programs at Dade Correctional Institution…
“Inmates who finish the class have a more positive attitude and seem more self-confident,” Norwood said. “Anytime you have inmates out there being a good influence on the others or providing good examples to others is always a good thing.”
“Many of our lifers are facilitators for other programs that we have,” Norwood said. “. . . And it is especially good for inmates who are young when they came to prison and have unfortunately grown up in prison. They gain insight into their character with programs like this, and it kind of brings them some peace.”
Dade Correctional Institution, located in a rural section of Homestead, houses more than 1,400 adult male inmates. The men in Klarreich’s class were there voluntarily.
Exchange for Change has proven to be much more rewarding to the inmates than just learning to improve their writing. It has dramatically improved their communication and social skills, Klarreich said.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 23,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 140,000 offenders in the community.